While IRK Magazine explored FotoFever at Le Carrousel du Louvre, a photography fair with the goal of encouraging people to collect, we had the chance of meeting and having a chat with photographer Denis Félix at the Frédéric Got Gallery.
Denis Félix had a peculiar start having studied medicine for five years before deciding to choose a different avenue: photography! He has had a long career in fashion and advertising with clients including Hermes, Rolex, and BMW. On a personal level, he has been dedicated to capturing the beauty of time-honored tradition with unspoiled cultures.
Starting in 1994, Denis Félix set off traveling the world in pursuit of moving and profound portraits. He traveled from Mali, Guinea, Morocco, Mauritius to Saint Martin to capture, with his camera, moments and unforgettable faces.
IRK: Do you put the same passion and time into your commercial work as you dedicate to your personal projects?
There are two important things: time and passion! Passion is something that we need to apply to everything we do. Often, I am free to express myself in my commercial shoots and in those cases, I give 100% of myself. In any case, if I have to do something, I do it fully. Photography is my job and my passion. It is an amazing career because it gives me the opportunity to explore myself and I can share my inner travels with other people.
The side that I like most about commercial projects is that I have the chance of making a brand enter my universe. I can propose to do something close to my personal work, which is to highlight people who are, most of the times, in the shadows or forgotten. What I love most is giving them importance, if my commercial work lets me do this then it is perfect.
© Denis Felix - Guinée Ethnie Malinke Nagnagale. Galerie Frédéric Got.
IRK: I read that you always take only one photo of each subject that you are portraying. Is it true that you don’t take a sequence of photos?
For my personal work, I only shoot one photo for every portrait. For brands, it is harder. I try to propose my idea of only one photo but since they are used to publicities they always ask for more but in the end, they usually choose the first image.”
IRK: Did you spend time with each of the people in your photos? Did you get to know them?
It is the same as what is happening right now. We don't know each other. You came here, we talk and we start to know each other. We try to share something. The words sometimes help but it is not always necessary.
When I take photos, particularly with people that don't speak my language, I usually touch them. Sometimes in some cultures, I was not able to do this because everything is sacred, but there is a language that is universal: our energy, that we share, we don't need to talk the same language to get along with someone.
If I share something with a person for me it is a real moment, and the confidence that is established is very special. It takes a lot of time and, I don't have any kind of urgency.
I always send back the photo I took of the people I portray. It may take a year or longer as some of the locations are so remote. Once it took 20 years before I got my published book to a small village in Mali. I was not able to go last minute so my friend went for me. He took photos of the people receiving their photos 20 years later.”
© Denis Felix - Mali Ethnie Sénoufo Fono. Galerie Frédéric Got.
IRK: Do you know the names of each person photographed?
“Yes, I usually have a bad memory of names but I remember every one of the people I photographed and the moment I shared with them due to the intensity of the moment. I can’t forget them, for me having this opportunity is a huge present.”
IRK: Since you took a lot of pictures in a lot of countries, how much time did you need for this collection?
“I started this project 25 years a go. When I have free time I travel and shoot. Sometimes I have the opportunity to travel for my commissioned works.
IRK: You give a lot of importance to the eyes in your photos, why did you choose this part of the body?
The eyes are a magic door to enter the world of people. While we talk I don't look at your nose or at your mouth. I look in your eyes!